Beware Sites Offering Free WordPress Themes

Filed under: Blogging — Tags: , , — Brian

If you’re using your blog as an extension of your website for internet marketing reasons, you very likely have a customized blog theme to match the feel of your site. But if you’re blog is your site, then odds are good that you’re in the market for a new WordPress theme from time to time, to keep your site looking fresh.

If you are looking for a new WordPress theme, be very careful about sites offering free WordPress themes. Siobhan over at WPMU.org recently investigated the top 10 sites offering free WordPress themes … and found that 9 out of the 10 included malicious code that put spam advertisement on your site — usually in a way that is completely hidden in the back-end code.

For a complete look at the staggering research, see her article Why You Should Never Search for Free WordPress Themes in Google or Anywhere Else.

But for the short version:

  • WordPress.org was the one safe place to get your free WordPress themes — as we’d expect!
  • Most of the sites used base 64 code to hide their ads in what looks like gibberish.
  • Some of the sites didn’t even have original themes — they just stole someone else’s theme and put their ads on it.
  • These ads usually appeared as text links in the footer of the site — links for cell phone services, online casinos, etc.

Why do so many people build sites offering free WordPress themes just to sneak evil little code in their themes? Well, because they want to make money! No doubt they have affiliate relationships with the companies the ads point to, and they get paid every time someone clicks through to those links. It’s also possible that they are selling the links to companies trying to invest in shady link-building SEO programs.

Worst of all, if you have a trusted, authoritative site on your subject, your readers may well assume that it’s safe to click on those links, because they trust you. They’ll also assume that you are responsible for putting those links on your site.

In the end it’s like Robert Heinlen said: TANSTAAFL — There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Except at WordPress.org, of course.

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4 Comments | Leave a comment

  • These anti-spam detector plugins are really good. I’ve had these also on my WordPress blog too. I hate spam because they just comment of of nowhere and they are really off the freaking topic. I’m very glad that developers created these plugins to lessen them. They are like coach diaper bags for me. It’s a very important and relevant tool for your blog. Bloggers must have all these to eliminate them.

    Comment by Todd P. Pennington

  • I’m sorry to hear that. Just thought that there’s no such thing as free lunch. Good thing someone discovered that such things exist with free wordpress themes. It is a lot safer to check their gallery first or just purchase your own theme to be on the safe side.

    Cheers,
    Dave

    Comment by David Jenyns

  • On the bright side, all of the free themes offered at WordPress.org are perfectly safe! So we do have a source of free themes… though they tend to look a bit dated these days.

    But outside of what’s on WordPress.org, paid themes are probably the safest way to go.

    Comment by Brian

  • Thank you for your tips!

    Comment by Dexter

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